Millions across the world are fighting, praying, and hoping for 11-month-old Charlie Gard’s chance to pursue living.
Here, across the pond in the United States, we have leading doctors and physicians offering treatment, nonprofit organizations collecting donations, and a president providing unqualified support. But, while it is easy to empathize with Charlie’s parents and their wish to treat him, it may seem difficult to understand how this international conversation and battle will ever impact you (a person now in a stage far past infancy). A seemingly single, one-off event caught on the international stage somehow feels isolated; surely it cannot possibly be the symptom of a broader culture shift right?
Baby Charlie Gard’s story is part of a swelling tide to deliver a death culture to as many shores around this world that it can and it demands a duty-to-die. The United States is no exception. The leaders of this death movement seek to classify entire groups of people as better-off-dead based on a set criteria established by governments and administered by physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies (namely, anyone but the person and his loved ones).
We see it in the $20 million spent annually to legalize medical murder (also known as physician assisted suicide) here in the United States and the more than 400 people euthanized against their will in the Netherlands each year. Where once individuals were cared for and comforted in the life stage of dying, they are now forced into the withdrawal of care by courts, dehydrated to death by medical professionals, and told their treatments will no longer be paid for, but with $1.20 copay, they can poison themselves to immediate end.
So then, what should our government’s role be in our death? To stay out of it.
But here is where it gets tricky: death enthusiasts will claim that is exactly what they are advocating for. Do. Not. Be. Fooled. What they want is for the government to mandate your death by placing you into an unfit-for-life category, and then for you, without medical supervision or protections, to feel it is your choice to swallow the hemlock. The London courts have placed Charlie Gard in that category in the United States, six states place adults in that same category every day under supposed “Death with Dignity” laws.
For government to truly remain out of death it must defend the liberties of each of its citizens unequivocally and without exception. The promising news is that there are good people on both sides of the political aisle who agree that death mandates are un-American (the architect of Obamacare, Ezekiel Emmanuel, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy join many greats on the right on these issues). Together, here is how we do it.
First, using the U.S. Constitution as our guide, we must remain committed to the ideal that in order for our laws to be just, they must apply to all citizens. That means that no law should classify an individual, or group of individuals, as exceptions to the protections of the laws, including those that hold up 4000 years of medical tradition that doctors should not introduce a lethal agent into a patient.
Second, we must not accept discarding individuals through hastened death as a solution for a single problem. Once we succumb to the notion that some conditions and diagnoses can only be addressed through death, many more illnesses and disabilities will be deemed similarly hopeless. A so-called choice to die will become a clear-cut duty to die.
Lastly, we must maintain our societal view that life is worth valuing and protecting. Just as we devote community and government resources to suicide prevention and mental health treatment, we must also aid and comfort those confronting terminal illnesses and end-of-life challenges. Contrary to what death enthusiasts will tell you, individuals who surrender to pressure to hasten death prematurely do not do so because of intolerable suffering but because of anxiety and fear.
These living, breathing Americans deserve to be treated and cared for just as their fellow citizens are. Hospice care has proven protocols that treat the entirety of the patients and their families — this includes emotional, psychological and spiritual counseling to ease the depression and worries that are normal responses to dying.
Baby Charlie Gard’s life deserves these protections because he is fully human; as the protectors of his sovereignty, his parents should be able to pursue his treatment, care, and comfort through consultation with experts and physicians. No government should deem him, or any of us, unfit for life and better off dead.
• Julie Hocker is a senior fellow at the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Human Dignity.
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